Run a Text Search query


Text Search queries allow you to find all occurrences of a word, or phrase in your sources. This topic explains how you can create Text Search queries and what you can do with the results of the query.

What do you want to do?


Understand Text Search queries

Text search queries let you search for words or phrases in your sources.

You can select the source content you want to search, by selecting sources, nodes, sets or folders.

Before you run a Text Search query, make sure the text content language is set to the language of your source materials—refer to Set the text content language and stop words for more information.

You can use a Text Search query to:

  • Explore the use, context and meaning of words—are some expressions used more widely in a specific demographic?

  • See if an idea or topic is prevalent in your sources—particularly in the early stages of your project.

  • Automatically code words or phrases. For example, find each occurrence of solar or wind power and code them (and the selected context around them) at the node renewable energy. Refer to Broad brush coding using queries for more information.

You can search for exact words or phrases. You can also search for words and include words with the same stem—for example, search for 'talk' and also find 'talking'.  For this release, you cannot find words with similar meanings, such as synonyms.

Refer to Move forward with queries and visualizations for more ideas about how you can use Text Search queries to explore your data.

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Create a Text Search query

  1. On the Query tab, in the Create group, click Text Search.

  1. Choose where you want to search for matching text:

  • All sources—search for content in all the sources in your project, including externals and memos

  • Selected Items—restrict your search to selected items (for example, a set containing interview transcripts)

  • Items in Selected Folders—restrict your search to content in selected folders (for example, a folder of interview transcripts)

  1. In the Search for box, enter the word or phrase that you want to search for. If you want an exact phrase enclose it in double quotation marks (").

  2. (Optional) Use the options on the Special popup menu to combine multiple words with special characters and operators.

  3. (Optional) Under Finding matches, select Include stemmed words if you want to include words with the same stem (e.g. look for 'talk' and also find 'talking'). By default, Exact match only is selected.

  1. Click the Run Query button at the top of Detail View.

When the query has finished running, the results are displayed as a temporary preview in Detail View.


  • Refer to Selecting project items for information about how to select the sources, nodes or other project items that you want to search in.

  • In this release, you cannot search for words with similar meanings (synonymns, specializations and generalizations). If you are working with a project that was created on NVivo 10 for Windows, you cannot run queries which search for synonyms, specializations and generalizations.

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What text is included in a Text Search query?

When running a Text Search query, NVivo applies the following rules:

  • In audio and video transcripts, only words in the Transcript field (column) are included in the query—any words in the Speaker field are ignored.

  • In datasets, only words in codable fields (columns) are included in the query—any words in classifying fields are ignored.

A Text Search query does not find:

  • Stop words associated with the text content language, unless the stop word is contained within a search phrase, or the text content language is Chinese or Japanese. Stop words are less significant words, such as conjunctions and prepositions. You can edit the list of stop words to suit the content of your sources—refer to Set the text content language and stop words for more information.

  • Symbols, or punctuation.

  • Parts of words—except if the text language is Chinese or Japanese.

  • Words within images.  PDFs created by scanning paper documents may contain only images—each page is a single image. If you want to use Text Search queries to explore the text in these PDFs, then you should consider using optical character recognition (OCR) to convert the scanned images to text (before you import the PDF files into NVivo).

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Preview the results

When you run a Text Search query, by default, the Summary tab is in focus showing a list of all sources that contain the word or phrase.

Click the panes across the top to see:

  • Reference  The results are opened as a node preview and the word or phrase is shown with a narrow context. You can also expand the context around a reference.

  • Word Tree  Displays the results as a tree with branches representing the various contexts in which the word or phrase occurs. You may be able to find recurring themes or phrases that surround the word.

When you view the results as a Word Tree, you can:

  • Click a branch to highlight all of the other related branches to see the wider context.

  • Change the number of words that are displayed in the branches—use the Context (words) slider at the top of the word tree in Detail View to select the number of words you want to show.

  • Display a different word as the root. For example, if you search for house including stemmed words, you may find that housing is at the root (center) of the branches because it occurs more frequently. To select a different root word, click the disclosure arrow below the root word and then select another word.

  • Display the project items that contain a particular word or phrase. For example, hover over the root word to see a list of project items and the number of references that contain the root word.

  • Find the project item where a particular occurrence of the word is used—right-click on a branch to see the short-cut menu, then click Run Text Search Query.  

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Save the preview results as a node

If your query has returned interesting content, you may want to save it as a node, so that you can explore it further. Saving the results of Text Search queries as nodes can be a quick way of organizing your material into broad themes—refer to About coding (Broadbrush Coding using queries) for more information.

The node will contain the content that is displayed on the Reference pane in the query results in Detail View. If you repeatedly run the same query, you may want to merge the references into an existing node, rather than create them as a new node.

To save the references as a node:

  1. Click the Save Results button at the top of Detail View.

  1. If you are creating a new node, enter a name and description.

  2. Click Save Results.


  • By default new nodes are created in the Results folder, unless you choose another location. Refer to Manage query results (Understand the Results Folder), for more information.

  • You can run the query and save the results in a single operation—click Run Query and hold down the mouse button to access this option.

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